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Peer pressure is making us fail.

Muhammad Fahd Mahboob

I don’t know the secret of success, but the secret of failure is “trying to please everyone” – An incredibly profound statement. The fear of peoples’ opinions about us can be very daunting. 

Fear? Oh yes, because we inherently don’t like criticism or to be thought of poorly. We can get quite worried about what others think about us, what we do or say, and how we affect them. Interestingly ‘others’ are fretting over the same, more or less. “Log kya kahain gay?” a very common echo reverberating within our thoughts. It is but natural, being social creatures that we do ponder quite often over our interactions and relationships. It’s a human thing, you know. This is why the art of communication is so complicated and challenging. But should we be so worried?

Well, the answer is not a clear ‘yes’ or a resounding ‘no’. We do need to know if we have been nice or mean to someone, whether our actions have been taken positively or negatively and if people agree or disagree. We are conscious of what people are thinking of us or our effect on them, especially those close to us. ‘Feedback’ is a requirement. It can be negative or positive, but in either case, is essential for learning and growth. Without feedback, we cannot progress individually, improve relationships or even communicate effectively. However, the urge to make sure people always feel good about us, think highly of our actions and words, and have nice feedback, is problematic. If this goes unchecked it has the potential to result in disappointment, depression, anger, conflict, fatigue, resentment, and all things synonymous with failure and of course failure itself.

As the saying goes, ‘you can fool some of the people all the time and all of the people some of the time but you cannot fool all the people all the time’. If we replace the term ‘fool’ with ‘impress’ or ‘please’ you can see the correlation. So our mind spontaneously concludes ‘don’t worry about what people will think’, because naturally, you can’t impress all the people all the time. Why should you anyway?

Well, firstly our worries reduce by half once we do away with these self-created shackles. This is the same inhibition that limits us in our endeavors, so often forcing us to leave aside what we really want, our dreams and priorities, just so that we ‘fit in’ with society. We become approval seekers and behave in certain ways just because of people, not because it’s in our best interest or the right thing to do. So obviously to avoid disapproval, our logical minds suggest to us that we should just mean well and do our best and not care what people think, as long as no one is harmed, our intentions are good, and so on. But what about right or wrong?

Now here arises the dilemma, be very careful! This can mean doing ANYTHING, as long as… you know, people are not affected or harmed. But, actually, again we are worried about people’ isn’t it? We aren’t really still thinking freely. Secondly, this implies a kind of freedom where following our desires is all okay as long as others are not harmed. Two extremes and guess what, due to peer pressure, we also don’t want to upset the emerging world order by being extremists… What! Again worried about the world, are we?

Sigh! What a vicious dilemma! On one hand, we do everything the people find okay and on the other hand, we are FREE to do everything WE want, as long as people are not affected. Sounds familiar? Well the first scenario in an extreme where ultra-conservative cultures would probably evolve like the numerous man-made religions, sects, cults, rituals, and trends. The other extreme it seems is the reason why democratic, secular, or liberal paradigms emerge. There is, however, no consideration for what is right and wrong in either.

So, how can we decide what is good and bad or for that matter right or wrong? Our natural disposition does have a sense of right or wrong but then the social conformance pressures suppress this natural instinct into compliance through subjugation with peer pressure. This is why we are left with no choice but to take this chaos to a higher intelligence than ours, one that is free from all human hang ups and imperfections, free from any pressures, no insecurities, and no dependence on anyone whatsoever – God (Allah Almighty). We desperately must break free from the shackles of man-made philosophies and paradigms.  

When we know the criteria for right and wrong as distinguished by the Creator of everything, we finally have with us the resolution of this cruel man-created dilemma. Do what the Creator wants from us and then, goes without saying, don’t worry if people are pleased or displeased. This is true FREEDOM. This sets us free from the menace of peer pressure. The truth has set us free! Now we can become least bothered if people are pleased or upset because we are clear in our intentions and trying our best to please the Creator by doing the ‘right thing’. We don’t want to impress anyone anymore, yes and the feedback, well that if received or given is also bearable, either it is taken as a reminder of what Allah expects from us and if or how much we are compliant or can improve to meet the Creator’s expectations only. This is at best, an explanation, of the amazing Arabic word ‘Ibadah (aka worship – a skewed translation). The real meaning is best understood as Allah Subhanahu wa Ta’alaa Says in the Qur’an:

(Surah Adh-Dhariyat 51:56)

Well there is much more Allah has mentioned in His Book but just to completely kill this dilemma He has further outlined clearly our job description. Allah Subhanahu wa Ta’alaa Says in the Qur’an:

(Surah Al-Imran 3:110)

So to sum it all up, the secret to success is to believe in Allah, submit only to Him, practice and establish good or what is right as Allah has defined it, also referred to as Al Ma’aroof (right) and avoid and stop Al Munkar (wrong). As for people, you need never worry whether they are pleased or not you’re your intentions and efforts are all to please Allah Subhanahu wa Ta’alaa, their Creator and your Creator.

And Allah Knows Best.

Disclaimer: The content written is not from an ‘Aalim but a student of knowledge, thus susceptible to error. May Allah accept the good in here and benefit the writer and reader and may He forgive for any errors.

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